What is the algorithm all about and what does it have to do with how much engagement your church gets on Instagram? There’s a lot of talk about the algorithm and how to “beat” it. The truth is, the algorithm itself is not the problem with our social media marketing. But when we understand it, it will make a huge difference.
In this post we’ll be going over the basics of the Instagram algorithm and 4 ways your church can use it to boost engagement in 2021.
Table of Contents:
- Instagram Algorithm Basics
- Post Consistently When Your Community Is Most Active
- Make More Imperfect Videos
- Talk Like A Person Not A Business
- Start Engaging With People, Instead Of Waiting For Them To Engage
Instagram Algorithm Basics
Instagram is monitoring how people engage with your content and how you engage with other people’s content. The algorithm will show you more posts, stories, videos etc. that are similar to what you’ve interacted with most in the past.
If you watch more videos, you’ll get more videos in your feed. If you always check certain accounts, the new content from those accounts will show up in your feed first. The algorithm favors engagement.
- Video Views
- Story Stickers (ex. Polls, Questions, Emoji Slider etc.)
It prioritizes posts from your friends, family and accounts you care about. It uses your interactions to piece together who is closest to you by looking at what content you like, who you DM, and who you search for.
So when you pop open your Insta the posts that come up are not chronological, they are sorted by the algorithm based on your personal engagement history.
The same goes for Insta Stories. The ones that come up first are from accounts who you engage with most. The algorithm wants to give what you want to see so you will stay on the platform for as long as possible. Only slightly creepy, but we can use this for good.
Using The Instagram Algorithm For Good
Alright, how can we harness the power of this for your church and use it for good?! The amazing news is that the algorithm acts the same for business accounts and personal accounts. So our goal is that we want the algorithm to pick up on the fact that your church is bff’s with your church members. Because you are bff’s right?! If you aren't and you want to learn to become BFF's with your online community, download this free guide, 3 Secrets to Boost Your Church's Instagram Engagement, and we can walk through it together.
If your church doesn’t look like it has real relationships with your church community, the algorithm will not be showing your posts to your community as often as you’d like. So let's dive into how to make the algorithm work for your church.
After reading, this will be how you feel planning your posts this week:
Tip #1: Post Consistently When Your Community Is Most Active
Posting consistently is KEY to helping you show up more often in your audience's feed and stories. There is no magic number of how many times to post on the feed for your church.
How many times should your church post per week?
Use this as a starting point and then adjust based on the response you are getting.
- 0-500 | 2 times per week
- 500- 2500 | 3 times per week
- 2500-5000 | 4 times per week
- 5000-10,000 | 5 times per week
- 10,000+ | Daily
The more followers you have the more you can post per week. Some businesses post on the feed 30 times a day, and some post once a week. It depends on your audience size. If you have a small audience you may be bombarding your followers every day and that will cause them to stop engaging. Especially if your content is similar every day.
For stories, you can post every day, 1-10+ stories, but remember, quality over quantity.
Choose a number of posts that you know you and your team can stick to. Start small, and stay consistent. Work towards growth. Consistency wins the algorithm.
We recommend using a post planning app so that you can create your content all in one sitting and set it all to post at the time your community is most active on Instagram. This will give your post a better chance to receive more engagement quickly, which means your post will be shown to more people.
You can see when your followers are online and most active by going to the Insights panel in your Instagram settings or if you use a post planning app they most likely have an Analytics panel with a bit more detailed information. We recommend the following apps:
These apps all have a free version to get started with and then you can consider upgrading when you’re ready for more features. Worth it.
The number one trick to being consistent is planning ahead! If you are rushing from thing to thing, your Instagram posts will always be on the back burner. I challenge you and your team to create all your feed posts for the week in one sitting and set them all to automatically post. Imagine how good that will feel! Phew!
Tip #2: Make More Imperfect Videos
Video automatically attracts a longer viewing period simply because it is a longer format. Video also gets 4x more real estate on the Instagram Explore page. You can post video content on Reels, Stories, IGTV or straight to your feed. They are all great ways to use short form video.
Pro Tip: Always post your IGTV’s and Reel’s to your feed and use relevant hashtags so that your video gets an initial engagement boost when you first post it.
When Instagram first introduced Stories to the app in 2016, 150 million people used the feature.
Now, over 500 million people use stories every day — and every major social network has some form of stories-like feature in the works.
I know creating more video can be overwhelming depending on the size of your team. You may not know exactly where to start and you don’t feel you have all the equipment and resources you need.
Here’s the truth. You and your team do not need to have fancy professionally edited videos. That is not what people engage with most anyway! People want to see real, raw content. It’s better to take action than try to make it perfect.
Think about the quality of content you are putting out versus the how it looks. Ask yourself, does what are you are saying serve only you or does it serve your insta community? Is it interesting? It is educational? Will it help someone or inspire them? If yes, then grab your iPhone take some video and go for it!
Tip #3: Talk Like A Person, Not A Business
People want to connect with a real person, not with a business. Businesses that do really well on social find a way to make a personal connection and make their brand more about building community than what they sell.
For some reason on our church accounts we get all… business-y. We talk like we are talking to a board of executives and then we make our Instagram feel like a bulletin board. To avoid this, write your captions like you are talking to a friend and the algorithm will work in your favor.
Here’s some tips:
- Be casual, friendly and real.
- Ask yourself: Would I say this in real life?
- Think about one person in your church who needs to hear what you want to share and write your caption just to them.
- Think about what actions you take on your personal account and how you could do something similar on your church account.
- Make friends with people, comment on posts you like, and DM people in the church community.
- Get your leaders at your church to open up personally on the church Instagram and share their challenges and how God is helping them to overcome.
People in the Church are craving authenticity about real, relevant stuff. Utilize your church social to lead the way in authenticity.
Tip#4: Engage With People, Instead Of Waiting For Them To Engage With You
There is a lot of talk about how to get more people to engage with your Instagram accounts. It's like a "get rich quick" scheme. The truth is it takes time and consistency just a like a real relationship does. So get out there, get a team to engage with people on Instagram and put the Gram to work! People will not engage with your church account if you don’t engage first.
We expect people to come to us on Instagram when really we need to go to them. We have thousands and thousands of people just one DM away from meeting us. That is pretty dang awesome.
When you build more engagement in your current community your posts will be surfaced to new audiences so that you impact more people with the gospel. Churches are actually set up perfectly to do great on Instagram. We are a relational organization that cares about people and wants to authentically connect with people.
We have a clear mission and a lifetime’s worth of content, inspiration and education to share with the world. We are set up! Let's translate that to social media.